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20 November 2017

Mount Davidson was once a bare hill, nothing but a lump on the landscape. Then it was forested mainly with blue gum eucalyptus. Now the tallest peak in San Francisco looks like it needs a haircut.

We're drawn to the tall trees bending the wind off the Pacific as if they were nothing but grass. But Mount Davidson is a hard subject to photograph.

Scale is one problem. You just can't appreciate in two dimensions either how it rises up dramatically or slopes generously away.

But the other day we found ourselves looking up at the sky, hoping it wasn't about to rain on us as we waited for the bus.

It's OK to darken clouds if you want dark clouds.

And there was Mount Davidson framing the cloud formation.

The sun, believe it or not, did not figure in this photo. It was out of the frame beyond the upper right corner.

As soon as we took it, we realized we had a monochrome image we could play with quite a bit to bring out the forest and darken the clouds.

It's OK to darken clouds if you want dark clouds. It's your picture. You're not working for the National Weather Service.

And that was the real treat. Knowing we could convert this to a monochrome image and work the tones to death.

We started with a Raw capture, which is nothing but data. Here's how Adobe Camera Raw's Auto option optimized that data:

You can see the color temperature of the sky is cool. And you can also see there's no detail in the trees. That large one on the right, by the way, is really just across the street from the bus stop and not on Mount Davidson.

That's about how it appeared to us as we waited for the bus.

But you can see in the black-and-white image (repeated with the color one) what we had hoped to get out of our capture. A more dramatic sky unblemished by the sun burning out the highlights. And detail in the trees to give some sense of scale.

Color doesn't always trump monochrome. And in this case, the monochrome image is the one we like best.

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